Light Up Those Books! - National Council of Teachers of English
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Light Up Those Books!

MaryKent'sstudentsConfessions first—I’m addicted to mystery adventure books and this month that ends in Banned Books Week, has me thinking about banned books more than usual. Imagine then my surprise when I began listening to a Sam and Remi Fargo mystery yesterday. The book began in Mexico with the infamous Maya book burning of July 12, 1562, during an inquisition ordered by Diego de Landa, bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Yucatán. A number of Maya codices (some 27 books) and approximately 5,000 Maya cult images were burned.

This made me think of a modern-day book burning case from 2005 when a group of parents in Norwood, Colorado, took an English assignment in hand and, with the superintendent’s permission, literally burned Bless Me, Ultima.

And then I remembered Mary Kent Whittaker’s experience shared in her article,“Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition,” about the challenge to her teaching of Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits.

I want to think of these incidents as isolated cases built on some sort of misunderstanding but in a recent Harris Poll, 28% of those Americans surveyed said they believe that some books should be banned—a 10-point increase over the 2011 survey. On average, 40% of those interviewed said that children should not read books with references to violence, witchcraft, sorcery, sex, drugs, alcohol, or vampires. So no Harry Potter, Looking for Alaska, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Dracula, Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, etc., etc., etc.

So what’s left? Obviously, words are important—for some, important enough to burn. But I want to join Bookmans bookstore in pointing out that words are much more important to light up our minds.